The Feeding of the 4,000 and its Significance
October 2, 2016
I want to share an amazing “coincidence” – it’s a Providential connection, not an disjointed happenstance – that happened on Friday September 30, 2016. I believe the Lord, Abba Father, is in control of all things, especially when it concerns Scripture. I believe He speaks to us through Scripture; the Holy Spirit (Ruach ha Khodesh, in Hebrew-Aramaic) is our “Resident Truth-teller” … He reveals truth to us believers as we read His Word, the only source of genuine Truth on this earth.
So, I’m reading through Scripture, consecutively, but at a very slow pace for about a year. I just read Numbers Chapter 10 in the Torah (ending with the amazing Aaronic Blessing – WHAT a blessing!) in my First Covenant (aka Old Testament) reading. In the Messianic Writings, I read the following passage in Mark, Chapter 8. Then, on Friday evening, I was in my car at 9:15 PM (I rarely drive that late in the evening anymore) when the local Christian station in Carlisle played a Bible reading – the exact same event, but in Matthew’s Gospel. I reprinted both passages below.
Mark Chapter 8: In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8: 1 – 21 ESV)
Matthew 15: 32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
Matthew 16: And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Back to Joe: What a fascinating narrative! There’s a lot there, but I just want to touch on a few things:
- This is “The Feeding of the 4,000”, which is NOT the same as “The Feeding of the 5,000” mentioned earlier and mentioned in all 4 Gospels (“The Feeding of the 4000” is only mentioned in Mark and Matthew – but that doesn’t suggest that the narrative is not absolutely TRUE!). It’s a different event because of its meaning, too: the geographical information tells us that these are GENTILES, not the Jewish followers Jesus fed in Galilee earlier (The 5000 were Jews who rejected Jesus in John 6 because He DIDN’T feed them again like Yahweh did for the wandering Israelites with manna). The point of this passage is that the Jews were offered the Truth of Jesus, and their leaders (the Pharisees and the Sadducees), but He was ultimately rejected by most of His own people. Remember: all 12 Apostles were Jewish. Jesus demonstrated to them that the gospel was for the Jews first, but also to the Gentiles, by spending time in Gentile territory and doing the same things He did in Israel. He healed EVERYBODY who came to Him – and every healing was genuine and complete. He taught them the truth of the gospel: that He would be crucified to pay the sin-debt of all who would put their trust in Him. And He demonstrated that He was the Creator (which He would have to be if He claimed to be God in human flesh) by creating loaves and fishes to feed the probably 16, 000 people in that desolate place.
- The Pharisees and Sadducees demanded a sign – as if they hadn’t already seen hundreds of them – but Jesus wouldn’t play their game: He refused to do tricks for them because they had already rejected Him. But… while He refused to give the Jewish religionists a sign, He then took a long trip into Gentile territory and did HUNDREDS of signs. They demanded a sign, and He wouldn’t give one; the Gentiles didn’t demand any signs, and He did huge numbers of them, culminating with creating food to feed them.
- Jesus says, “I have compassion …” as a reason for feeding the people. It’s the only time in the Gospels where Jesus SAYS He has compassion on people” – other times, it says it in the third person: “Jesus felt compassion…”. This is a different situation because these people were Gentiles. Jesus was training his disciples to understand ‘The Great Commission” to preach the good news of salvation to ALL people, both Jews and Gentiles.
- The disciples didn’t get the meaning, at the time. They believed Jesus could create food (they saw the parallels with the fairly recent “Feeding of the 5,000”), so their reaction was more like: “Yes, Jesus, we know – why aren’t You creating food just like before?” They didn’t get the message that He will ALWAYS supply ALL of our needs – He is our “Compassionate Provider.” That’s why He asked them how much they collected after both feedings. His provision was OVER ABUNDANT! They could depend on Him for EVERYTHING! They needed to TRUST Him to provide all their needs – which they should have known that He would do.
- One more thing: I noticed that, in Mark, there is more detail about the aftermath of each feeding. Matthew doesn’t give the number of large baskets that were collected on each occasion, but Mark does. It might be because Mark’s Gospel was written to a primarily Gentile audience, and the Holy Spirit led him to emphasize the Gentile aspects of the narrative – Jesus can… He WANTS to! … provide all of THEIR needs, if they just trust in Him. He cares as much for them as He cares for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” I notice the numbers are “Twelve” and “Seven”.
Yes, they are the Biblical numbers of God’s provision.
Can you connect any other dots? (Hint: to celebrate Rosh Hashanah on October 1, 1932, Babe Ruth “Called His Shot” at Wrigley Field in Chicago, giving a sign to the Cubs that they would be cursed for 84-years. That curse has ended today, Rosh Hashanah 2016).